White Cats and Skin Cancer
The sun is enemy to white cats, as repeated exposure can cause squamous cell carcinoma, particularly in areas where the hair is thin or non-existent, such as the ears, nose, and eyelids. This form of skin cancer can be painful, unsightly, and ultimately fatal unless diagnosed and treated early.
Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats
The epidermis, or skin, consists of several layers. The outer layer is made up of scale like cells called the squamous epithelium. This layer of tissue covers the surface of much of the body, and lines the cavities of the body. A squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that originates in the squamous epithelium. It may appear to be a white plaque, or a raised bump on the skin. Often the raised mass will necrotize in the center and ulcerate, with occasional bleeding.
As carcinomas are characteristically malignant and particularly invasive, it is essential to have this form of skin cancer diagnosed and treated without delay. Cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas are typically fast growing tumors that get bigger with time and resist healing. Some cats can get as many as thirty sores on their skin, a condition called Bowen’s disease. Both types of squamous cell carcinoma can metastasize to other organs. If the ulcers are diagnosed before they have had an opportunity to become malignant, this condition may be treated effectively in some cases.
Squamous cell carcinomas are seen more in cats that live at high altitudes and in cats that spend a lot of time in the sun. White cats and light colored cats are more likely to get these tumors than other kinds of cats. This kind of cancer is most commonly seen in older cats.
Symptoms and Types
- A crusty or bleeding sore on the skin that does not go away with antibiotics or creams
- Sores that do not heal for several months
- Sores in areas where the hair is white or light colored
- Bowen’s Disease
- Skin that changes color and develops an ulcer in the center
- Hair in the sore falls out easily
- Dried, crusty material on the hair near the sore
- As many as 30 sores on the head, neck and shoulders
- Growths or Tumors
- White colored growth
- Growths in areas where hair is white and skin is light colored
- Sores or growths may be found anywhere
- The most common locations are the front of the nose (nasal planum), eyelids, lips, and ear tips